How Do You Fix Sprinklers That Won’t Pop Up? (Explained)

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A lush and green front or backyard is a sight to behold. Sprinklers are a key part of such a beautiful set up. Pop up sprinklers are such a darling as the duck out of sight when not in use. This keeps all interference away from the beauty of the grass greenery. But sometimes, these sprinklers may not pop up. How do you fix sprinklers that won’t pop up?

The first thing to do in fixing sprinklers that won’t pop up is to find out the cause. It could simply be to shake off dirt or soil that is holding it down. It can be as complex as having to fix a leak or a closed valve. There may also be a need to completely replace a damaged sprinkler head.

Failure of sprinklers to pop up can be due to several reasons. Fixing them ranges from simple pressing with the leg to a total replacement. The first step in solving a problem is to gain enough information about it, and that is what this article is for.

Continue to read this to know more about the various causes of sprinklers not popping up. And easy ways to deal with each problem are provided.

Why won’t my sprinkler head pop up?

There are a number of factors that can keep a sprinkler head from popping. The first and simplest cause of this problem is debris and dirt clog. Because pop up sprinklers stay flush with the ground surface, they are liable to getting clogged with debris.

Decaying leaves, soil particles and other materials can find their way into the sprinkler head. These wastes can be enough to hinder the sprinkler head from coming up when called to duty. All that is needed is to find a way to get the hindrance out of the way.

Another common cause of a sprinkler head failing to rise to the sprinkling clarion call is water pressure. There is a water pressure range that is needed for optimum performance of a sprinkler. For the pop up sprinklers, low water pressure may result in the head not popping.

Low water pressure can be caused by a myriad of factors. One of such is when one of the valves in the sprinkler system line is partially or completely closed. A closed valve will reduce the water pressure that gets to the sprinkler head.

Leakages along the sprinkler line are another culprit in low water pressure problems. One or more spots in the water line may be leaking or broken causing the water pressure to reduce. This is one problem that may be hard to discover.

Unusually wet spots on the lawn that will not dry in the sun can be a good sign to spot a leaking pipe. It can also be detected with extra green patches on the lawn indicative of extra water supply. An unexpected increase in water bills can also show that there is a leakage along the waterline.

One last factor which is usually not the case for reduced water pressure is a fall in the municipal supply. A new building in an area can mean more load on the water supply in that area. If the general supply is not increased, it may lead to reduced pressure in individual homes.

Asides from reduced water pressure, the sprinkler head may not pop up for yet another reason. A broken sprinkler head may not pop up. Damaged heads can also be leaking water and contribute to the fall in water pressure.

How to fix sprinklers that won’t pop up?

Fixing a sprinkler that won’t pop up is easier when the cause of the problem is known. There are several possible issues that can make it not pop up. So I will provide the simplest solution to each one. Let’s start with the simplest.

The first simple problem that can make a sprinkler head not pop up is debris hold. To fix this problem, you must be ready to get wet. The drill is to put on the sprinkler, then push down the pop riser back into the body with the foot.

The objective of the pressing is to force out any dirt or debris that may be hooking the head down. This push and release action is repeated four or five times. After this, the head should come up getting you all wet to begin with.

The next problem that can be keeping the sprinkler head down is low water pressure. And the first cause of that could be closed valves. To fix this, check all the valves to ensure none is

partially or completely closed. Any one closed should be opened to allow proper flow of water.

A broken or damaged sprinkler head is usually not fixable. The best solution in such cases is to replace the head. Another challenging problem to fix is the case of a broken or leaky pipe along the sprinkler line. It may be hard to find out the exact spot where the leak is coming from.

The key is to find out the exact place where the water leak is from. Once this is done, great care must be taken in digging up the spot without causing more damage. The pipe or hose can then be fixed with simple plumbing skills.

Water pressure issues can be fixed with reducing sprinkler heads. When there are too many heads within a sprinkling zone, the water pressure will drastically drop. This may make some of the sprinkler heads not to pop up. Reducing the number of sprinklers can be the simple remedy.

There are some other technical issues that can cause a sprinkler head not to pop up. It could be a problem with solenoids or other components of the sprinkler. Or it may be the flow control. Fixing these other issues are discussed further in more details below. But first let me say more about how to discover a leaking pipe.

How do you spot a leak?

Broken pipes can be a serious pain in the ass. Especially when the pipes are buried under a lawn. It may take quite a while to notice obvious signs of a leaking pipe. But you may not have the luxury of waiting that long. Here is some advice on how to find a leaking spot.

One good way to quickly discover a leak in the sprinkler system is to check the water meter. Every home usually has a water meter that reads the amount of water consumption.

It is used to determine the monthly water bill based on your household consumption. It should be somewhere in your front yard.

To use this water meter to find out if you have a leaking pipe, shut off all water supplies in the house. Turn off all faucets and every appliance that uses water. Cut off water supply to dishwashers, washing machines, water closets and every other appliance.

Bear in mind not to shut off the main water control valve, just close all outlets. This includes turning off the sprinklers and other outdoor hose bibs. Once all water outlets are shut, proceed to check the water meter. There should be no reading if there is no water leak along the water system.

It is easy to detect if there is a hidden water leak if the water meter has a sweeping hand. The digital meter may not be easy to use as an indicator. But the sweeping hand swings every second to show water usage. Once a leak has been confirmed, then the exact spot must be uncovered.

Extra green patches on the lawn is an indication of extra water supply. That may be the leak spot that is being sought. The leaking spot will have extra wetness and seems lower. The water will find a way to the top causing some extra depression on the surface. The spot will generally be softer than others.

To fix the leaking pipe, there will be a need to dig it up. Or rather, an expert may be summoned. It is not such a big deal to fix a broken pipe.

But caution must be taken not to break more while trying to fix another.

How do you free up a stuck Valve flow control?

Most pop up sprinklers have electric solenoid valves. These valves usually have a flow control knob or screw.

This flow control handle or knob gives room for manual opening or closing of the valve. Most valves have the flow control knob or screw on the center of the valve.

To open the flow control, turn the handle anticlockwise. Ensure not to turn the manual bleed screw meant for opening the valve. Water will begin to come out if this is the screw you are turning. If water does come out, re-tighten the screw and check again to locate the flow control handle. Some valves do not have the flow control knob.

After opening the valve flow control knob, the head may still not pop up. This means the problem is not with the flow control. The next option is to open the valve manually. There is a bleed screw that is used to open the valve manually.

Some valves have a small level that is marked open/close. This lever can be used to manually open the valve.

Unscrew the bleed screw until the valve can be opened. If the sprinkler head pops up when the valve is opened, then the valve is the problem. The valve needs cleaning as it may be stuck.

Before proceeding to open the sprinkler valves, ensure to check other water control valves. There may be other valves along the water line. It may be at the point where the sprinkler system connects with the main water line or the household water system.

Make sure these valves are fully opened.

How do you unstick and clean a sprinkler solenoid valve?

The sprinkler head may fail to pop up because the valve needs some cleaning. Small grains of sand, insects or a twig may be caught inside the valve. Bad wiring, bad solenoid or a ripped diaphragm can also be the problem.

Whatever the case may be, the valve needs to be opened, cleaned and reassembled. It is considerably easy to disassemble the solenoid valve but the reassembling can be challenging. This is why it is best to take careful note as it is being disassembled to aid the recoupling process.

The anti-siphon solenoid valve is usually found in sprinklers. Remove the solenoid from the valve by unscrewing it in an anticlockwise direction. The solenoid has a plunger that is spring loaded, ensure that it does not fall off as the solenoid is removed.

Check if the solenoid is still in a good working condition with the spring-loaded plunger. Press the plunger in and allow it to spring back out gently when released. Repeat this several times and not the plunger movements. It should press in and out easily because of the spring.

If the plunger movement is not smooth and fine, the solenoid is bad. This is an indication that the solenoid should be replaced and not repaired. Lubricating the solenoid plunger will not solve the problem. There is no repairing, only replacing it is the option.

Now on to cleaning the valve, the lid has to be removed. Most valves have screws holding the lid in place. Turn the screws anticlockwise to open up the lid. Immediately after the lid comes a spring. Keep note of this and make sure the spring does not fall away.

After unscrewing the valve lid, a wrench may be needed to finally remove it. Set aside the spring and then locate the ports which are tiny passages on the lid. These passages come from the base of the lid up to the point where the solenoid is attached.

Check through these passages to ensure there are no sand grains in them. Gently remove any sand grain or dirt that may be inside this passage. It is important to be gentle not to enlarge or alter the shape and size of these ports.

The next stop is the rubber diaphragm inside the valve. Remove the rubber diaphragm and examine it to see if it is still in one piece. If it is broken, it needs to be replaced. Check the diaphragm if it has a gasket attached to it. See if it has anything stuck in it or to it.

Check the diaphragm seat to ensure it is free of sand or twig. An insect may have found its way down there. Clean out any dirt or hindrance that may be in any of these parts. If any part of the diaphragm is broken, replace the diaphragm.

Finally, check the valve seat. This is the base of the valve against which the diaphragm gasket presses. CHeck for any unwanted material inside it. It is important to note if the seat is scratched or pitied. A scratched or pitied seat will cause the valve to leak when assembled.

If the valve has a replaceable seat, then replace any scratched seat. If the seat is not replaceable, then the whole valve must be replaced. A leaking valve will not work well as the diaphragm will not be able to stop the water flow as it presses against the valve seat.

Clean each part carefully before reassembling the valve. Replace all damaged parts before putting the pieces back together.

The sprinkler heads should pop up fully after this procedure. Before fixing the valve, you may turn on the water to wash the pipes for any mud or sand clog.

How long do pop-up sprinklers last?

The actual longevity of anything is a combination of its durability and the maintenance efforts put into it. Averagely, a sprinkler system can last up to 20 years with proper maintenance and attention given to it.

A sprinkler system should be checked through at least once every year. This will help to access the system and to detect any defect that needs urgent attention before it goes out of hand. They are bound to break down along the course of the 20 years every couple of years.

The quality of the sprinklers from the outset will go a long way to say how long it will last. Pop up sprinklers come in different types and qualities. Most of the top quality types have a 5 years warranty. This shows they should well last up to the 20 years I mentioned earlier if well managed.

The quality of investment on the sprinkler system will directly impact the longevity of its use. A quality sprinkler head will do well to last 15 – 20 years. The valve may not last up to this but should be good up to 10 – 15 years. The pipes can last several years more than the other components.

A pop up sprinkler averagely lasts longer because it is shielded from adverse weather. But more falls on the maintenance quality. It is also good to install the system properly to secure the lifespan.

In Conclusion

Fixing a problem starts from knowing what the problem is. There are several factors that may be stopping a sprinkler head from popping up. It could be as simple as a grain of sand. And it can be as complex as a bad valve or a broken sprinkler head.

The important thing is to be meticulous in uncovering the cause of the problem first. Then the fixing becomes easy.

The bulk of the problem could just be about water pressure. Replace damaged valves and sprinkler heads. Then ensure the needed water pressure is supplied.